Iowa State Program Revitalizes Iowa's Small Businesses and Small Communities

Date: July 17, 2018

Iowa isn’t known for its large cities and thriving metropolitan areas, rather the midwestern state is known for its plentiful small towns and agricultural industry.

There are more than 900 towns in Iowa, many with small populations. Only 39 towns in the state have populations over 10,000. Since 2017, only nine of Iowa’s 99 counties have seen population growth, according to KCCI 8.

Iowa’s small towns, and in turn their small businesses, are struggling as former residents move and stay in larger metropolitan areas.

For the small towns sprinkled across Iowa, the tax-funded and Iowa Economic Development Authority-administered Main Street Iowa program is working to grow small town Iowa. The program uses more than $2 million to fund grants and offer advice and help to selected towns; on top of the $1.7 billion in private donations that the program has received since its inception.

“The reality is that businesses are happening. Cash registers are ringing. People are moving in,” Main Street Iowa State Coordinator Michael Wagler told KCCI 8.

One success story is Mount Vernon, Iowa, which celebrated 10 years with Main Street Iowa and $10 million in private investment.

“There’s a lot happening in our community right now, and it’s all because of what was begun with the Main Street idea,” said Joe Jennison, Mount Vernon/Lisbon director of Main Street Iowa, according to KCCI 8. “It’s almost like a little bit of elbow grease in a downtown like ours brings more work. One building owner completes their building, [and] then the next-door building says, ‘Well, I’m going to do that.’”

New to the town are 28 retail shops, 36 service buildings, nine restaurants, historically renovated lofts, and a plan to open 130 lots for development over the next few years.

In addition to Main Street Iowa, the Iowa Economic Development Authority has provided $100,000 to multiple towns in eastern Iowa. The state has also recently passed historic tax reform that includes a broadened sales tax base, a lowered corporate income tax, and a lowered individual income tax.

Related Content: Small Business News | Economy | Iowa

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